Things aren’t going to get ‘better’ | Nathalie Dauphin McKenzie, MD, MSPH
Are you waiting for the “right” time to start a new wellness regime? What IS the right time? Consider that things aren’t going to get “better” any time soon. Instead, accept that the time is now! I agree that we are all busy–trust me–I get it! In between writing this blog, I will edit some publications, review some clinical trial protocols, fill out a 100-page application pertaining to the fellowship of which I am the director; plan my children’s numerous extracurricular activities, surgical cases, clinic, manage chemo patients, and a plethora of the administrative and personal things that we all have to do—so I get it!
How can you stop using these as an excuse and start demanding that time back? The answer is simple–make it a priority. After all, YOU MATTER. Your wellness is important.
Wellness, however, is not just about resiliency. Wellness is also about adequate deep sleep, activity, meditation, and nutrition. I’d like to start with positive affirmations. Self-affirmations were first popularized by French psychologist Emile Coué back in the 1920s and are still a staple of self-help gurus and psychologists and personal coaches. But do they work?
Similar to the guided imagery that surgeons often use before a surgical case, self-affirmations (or positive affirmations) are tools that can be used to begin the day, throughout the day, and at the end of the day. We now better understand that self-affirmation–the process of identifying and focusing on one’s most important values–boosts stressed individuals’ problem-solving abilities. Those who appear to benefit most are those in high chronic stress situations (sound familiar?). One study showed a brief self-affirmation was effective in eliminating the deleterious effects of chronic stress on problem-solving performance.
In addition, affirmations also affect integrity preservation and “error awareness.” This can be used in academic and other professional settings. The strategy produces measurable neurophysiological effects. Specifically, these effects on attention and emotion could be measured directly in the form of a well-known brain response called error-related negativity, or ERN.
As further proof, a study of resilience and emotions following 9/11, psychologists hypothesized and later found that positive emotions buffer people from crisis situations, and that positive emotions allow resilient people to thrive under any circumstances.
The body of literature on this topic is growing, lending further credibility to this very simple task with a wealth of benefits.
In conclusion, as you start (or resume) your journey to a healthier YOU, consider starting with positive affirmations. This one simple initial step can help you mentally prepare for the other life changes necessary for ultimate wellness. If you look in the mirror and think to yourself that you could do a better job taking care of yourself, then do it! AND start today! After all, your patients look to you to set the example. Some well-known positive affirmation audios or YouTube include presentations by Louise Hay, Meditation Vacation, Dauchsy Meditations, and Power Thoughts Meditation Club.
- David Creswell, Janine M. Dutcher, William M. P. Klein, Peter R. Harris, John M. LevineSelf-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving under Stress. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (5): e62593
- Jaremka, L.M.. Reducing defensive distancing: Self-affirmation and risk regulation in response to relationship threats. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2011;47:264-268.
- Correll, J., Spencer, S. J., & Zanna, M. P. (2004). An affirmed self and an open mind: Self-affirmation and sensitivity to argument strength. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 350-356.
- Wood, J., Elaine Perunovic, W., & Lee, J. (2009). Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others Psychological Science, 20 (7), 860-866 DOI: 1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02370.x
- Legault, T. Al-Khindi, M. Inzlicht. “Preserving Integrity in the Face of Performance Threat: Self-Affirmation Enhances Neurophysiological Responsiveness to Errors.” Psychological Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1177/0956797612448483
- What Good Are Positive Emotions in Crises? A Prospective Study of Resilience and Emotions Following the Terrorist Attacks on the United States on September 11th, 2001
Barbara L. Fredrickson, Michele M. Tugade, Christian E. Waugh, and Gregory R. Larkin
J Pers Soc Psychol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 October 1.
Nathalie Dauphin McKenzie, MD, MSPH, is a gynecologic oncologist at Florida Hospital Medical Group in Orlando, FL.